Berserk lawyers assaulted students and journalists, including Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) student leader Kanhaiya Kumar, when he appeared for a hearing in India’s court Wednesday.
The case of sedition against the Left-Wing JNU student leader has sparked protests across universities and triggered divided opinions. Discussion on mainstream and social media continued on whether the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government is curbing freedom of speech, suppressing debate and dissent, which are key pillars of a healthy democracy.
Pitted against the students are supporters of the nationalist BJP government under Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Right-Wing supporters of BJP say the punishment against Kumar is justified.
In brazen defiance of rule of law and police presence, lawyers attacked Kumar inside the Patiala House court in New Delhi, accusing him of turning an anti-national. The assault on Kanhaiya happened despite weak evidence against his involvement in anti-India activities.
According to the Hindustan Times, “Mobs of lawyers heckled journalists and kicked and punched Kanhaiya Kumar when he was brought to court to face sedition charges on Wednesday, prompting the Supreme Court to ask officials to ensure the JNU student leader’s safety.”
Reportedly, the assault on the JNU student leader happened inside the court premises when lawyers asked students to vacate court premises before Kanhaiya Kumar’s bail plea hearing. Following the assault, Kumar was remanded to custody by the court until March 2. Reportedly, the court lodged him in the high-security Tihar Jail in Delhi.
Following the arrest of Kanhaiya, the JNU campus turned into a virtual police camp. The heavy-handed legal action has led to a wave of protests across university campuses of India. Students reportedly viewed the sedition laws a pretext to subvert the autonomy of universities and education system in India.
The JNU teachers and students threw their weight behind Kumar. Classes at the university remained suspended due to strikes. Students gathered outside the administrative block and shouted slogans against the police and government.
The Delhi Police, following orders from the ruling BJP government arrested Kumar for his alleged participation in anti-India slogans inside JNU campus. The supporters of Kanhaiya said the government is using the repressive colonial-era sedition law to target the Left-Wing leaders in India.
The Hindu quoted Kumar saying the following to the magistrate in Delhi’s Patiala court.
“I have said earlier too. I am an Indian. I have full faith in the Constitution as well as the judiciary of the country.”
A video of a speech by Kanhaiya Kumar delivered before his arrest went viral in social media, including Twitter. In it, Kumar reportedly criticized the Right-Wing student fraternity and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a Hindu-nationalist organization to which Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ruling party belongs.
The assault on the JNU student leader and journalists evoked strong reactions from the intelligentsia and media.
Barkha Dutt, Indian journalist and TV anchor expressed her outrage on Twitter.
The JNU incident shows growing polarization in India along religious lines under the leadership of Narendra Modi. The pretext of sedition to silence political opponents reportedly exposed the impulsive and radical management of student politics by the ruling BJP government.
For the next couple of days, the JNU debate and arrest of Kanhaiya Kumar are the flash point of a raging “patriotic and anti-national” debate in Indian universities.
[Photo by Daniel Berehulak /Getty Images]